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Michael Douglas’ Cancer Highlights the Importance of Early Diagnosis

2nd September 2010

Michael Douglas has spoken for the first time about his treatment for throat cancer – he has just finished the first week of a two month programme of radiation and chemotherapy, “It’s so intense and so they’ve got to go at it.  You’d like it to be down at Stage 1 but it’s not.  The thing you’re always worried about is it spreading.  I am head and neck, nothing’s gone down.  The expectations are good.”  Although Michael’s cancer has reached Stage 4 - the most advanced stage - doctors believe he has an 80% chance of recovery and the 65 year old remains optimistic.  His wife Catherine Zeta-Jones is said to be “furious” that doctors didn’t spot the tumour during earlier tests, once again highlighting the importance of early diagnosis.  Kylie Minogue has also spoken of similar difficulties with her own misdiagnosis for breast cancer, and Jade Goody’s very early death highlighted the critical importance of cervical cancer screening.  

Michael is aware that the cancer is likely to be due to years of smoking and drinking but even the healthiest of stars have struggled with the illness including Martina Navratilova, "Here I am, the health and fitness ambassador for AARP, speaking to millions each month about staying healthy and I let my annual check-ups fall to the bottom of my to-do list. It's not all about eating right and exercising. Preventative steps can make just as much, or in some cases more, of a difference. Getting my mammogram literally saved my life."  Martina luckily received a relatively early diagnosis and four days after the final stage of her radiation treatment she was on the courts of Wimbledon participating in the women’s doubles and enjoying her TV commitments.  Lance Armstrong’s own struggle with cancer has also been well-documented following a diagnosis of Stage 3 testicular cancer 14 years ago when he was in his 20s.  He then went on to win the Tour de France an unbelievable 7 times and presented the keynote speech at a fundraising luncheon in Canada last month for the Breast Cancer Foundation.  Lance also led a 100 kilometre bike-ride in conjunction with the luncheon, the proceeds of which are expected to raise $1.5m. 

BBC Radio 4’s presenter of Woman’s Hour Jenni Murray also decided to talk about her experiences of breast cancer, “I decided to go public about it. I've had an intimate relationship with the people who listen to Woman's Hour for a very long time and am old enough to remember when cancer of any kind was so feared and hidden it was invariably referred to in terrified whispers as “the C-word".”  Winner of the Grand National Bob Champion has set up The Bob Champion Cancer Trust following his recovery from prostate cancer and went on to open the Bob Champion Cancer Research Unit at the Royal Marsden hospital in Surrey. 

There are some very inspirational and moving stories of hope and recovery and we wish Michael the very best for his treatment.

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